Old Deer Park Half Marathon 2016

It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote a blog post, mainly because I haven’t raced since the Trailscape Marathon in Ashurst on the 25th of January. Since then I’ve been running pretty high mileage weeks (for me) including long runs each weekend. I’ve also been going to track consistently and over the last few weeks James (co-founder of Advent Running) and I have done a few tempo runs on Thursdays. Overall I have felt like training has been going well. However, it is always hard to know what that training equates to in terms of race performances. Having done the Old Deer Park Half Marathon last year I decided to sign up again as it was a quick route and I thought it would be a good race to do to see what time I was capable of and build towards Cardiff Half and the London Marathon.
Another reason I signed up was that my girlfriend Lorna and a lot of friends would also be racing. We all pretty much had the same idea, some friends wanted to gauge fitness and others were gunning for PBs. Having not pushed it in a race recently I was really looking forward to getting out there and testing myself. After running 110k in the week leading up to the event I was unsure how much I could push and how my legs would feel but luckily they were good after a 10k shakeout run with Lorna on the Saturday.

I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning to head across London. I made it to Richmond in plenty of time and met Lorna, Jonny & Alan off the train. Everyone was feeling a little worse for wear. It seems like prime time for colds at the moment. We headed towards the race start and met up with Michalis in the car park opposite to drop bags and pin on race numbers etc, the usual pre-race stuff. We were all questioning ourselves as to why we run and why we don’t take up hobbies that can be done indoors in the warm. We even contemplated going for a little Sunday drive rather than running the half marathon! After a few made-up motivational quotes: “The quicker we run the quicker we’re done!” and “The wind is only as strong as it is in your mind!” we were all pumped up for the race.

We walked down to the start line where we met Dean who was just chilling. He seemed incredibly laid back considering we were about to race a half marathon. Near the start I also bumped into Spencer (part of the AR collective) and we had a quick catch up before the race began. Due to feeling good after the shakeout run on Saturday I looked up what pace I would need to run to do 1:20 or 1:17. It roughly works out to be 3:43min/km for 1:20, 3:38min/km for 1:17. Off the start line we were sent around a field, it was a little bit frustrating to just be running around through the long grass but luckily within a few hundred metres we were on solid ground and could settle into a good pace. After the lap around the field I was in fourth place just behind Jamal who runs at track with run fast. The two in front of us stormed off into the distance, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing either of them again in the race. I started running at close to 3:38min/km pace and decided I wanted to see if I could go close to 1:17 or beat my PB of 1:17:01 as I was feeling good. Considering the muddy and windy conditions I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to hold on to that pace but I knew I would get a good time even if I blew up a little and had to really suffer for the last few miles. It’s been a while since I’ve suffered in the latter part of a race and pushed it to that extent.

The first 10km or so went by pretty quickly because I was running with Jamal. However, after completing the first loop of the course he upped the pace and disappeared into the distance, I was still holding the pace around 3:38min/km but he was looking really strong and pushed on. With 10kms done I felt good knowing I just had to suffer for 11 more kilometres. I think going to track consistently and running around 3:30mins/km or quicker for the longer reps and doing 16k tempo runs at 4min/km with James has really helped. On the second loop I ended up passing a lot of runners on their first loop. This was good because for a lot of the first loop I was on my own and when you are pushing the pace it’s harder to be racing the clock rather than another runner. On the second loop I found the miles passed quicker, I think this was due to weaving passed runners and puddles along the river. However the last two kilometres of the race were hard. You turn right, back along the river, to head to the finish and I was on my own again. Thankfully it was just 2k to do and I started counting down the minutes, I kept telling myself “2k to go, that’s just over 7 minutes or so to suffer”. This is something that I have been doing when James and I have been doing our tempo runs; I find time is much easier to think about rather than distance. The minutes soon go by. I crossed the little bridge onto the grass, and was heading for the finish line. A few hundred metres to go and I could see the clock showed 1:15 something, this meant I’d run a PB. I finished in 1:16:10 knocking 51 seconds off my PB from Reading Half last year.  

Considering the windy and muddy conditions and not really tapering I’m chuffed with that result. Also considering I ran the same race last year in better conditions in 1:21 it bodes well for my A races coming up. 

 Massive well done to everyone else that took on the Old Deer Park Half, the conditions weren’t great out there but there were some great times posted. Also well done to everyone taking on races elsewhere like Hampton Court half, Wokingham half, the Run Through Olympic Park 5k/10k and Seville Marathon etc. I’ve seen so many awesome results posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Strava over the last few days.

I hope you had a good weekend whether you were racing or not. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

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